Storm Desmond & Derwent Hill

Storm Desmond hit Cumbria on the weekend of 5th / 6th December 2015.  Situated as we are, just outside Keswick, we were in one of the areas that was hit by record rainfall & river levels.

This BBC website gives an idea of the scale of the damage locally: BBC News Helicopter footage of floods

So what did we do at the time & how are we coping with the aftermath of the floods?

 Before the storm

It was clear during the week before the storm that it was going to be a wild weekend but at that stage the forecast wasn’t anything unusual for a December weekend – so we reviewed the programme, made some changes & got ready to welcome the students from Monkwearmouth school.

During the Storm

During Friday evening / Saturday morning it became obvious that this was a weather event of exceptional severity that was going to cause widespread disruption.   At this stage it was decided to keep all the students on site – confident that being on a hill would keep us away from any problems.  Our staff stayed on site to ensure that food was provided & that we could support the course.

On Sunday the students went out for a walk with Derwent Hill tutors to see the impact of the floods at first hand.  Their coach arrived during the afternoon & they headed home without difficulty.

After the storm

On the Monday after Storm Desmond we had a number of checks to do before we could welcome guests:

  • Could staff get to work? (Staff living in Ambleside made it to work despite the journey being extended by an hour due to road closures)
  • Could we get essential supplies? e.g. food
  • Was the local infrastructure open? e.g. roads and bridges
  • Could we offer an Outdoor Education experience that met our usual high standards?

We were able to say yes to all of these questions and made relevant follow up checks and adjustments:

  • A site visit to Honister gorge to make sure it had not dramatically altered
  • A thorough check of the grounds for tree damage etc.
  • Gathered information on footpath damage & road closures
  • Moved canoes as they were in about 1.5 meters of water!

Fullwell School arrived & had a great week – you can find out more by reading their blog.

Continuing on after the storm

We are constantly checking & updating our knowledge of how the storm has affected footpaths, roads, rivers and woodland. Cumbria & the Lake District is certainly open for business & in the recent snow it looks stunning.

These pictures show some of the damage to the Keswick to Threlkeld old railway footpath, where bridges and large sections of  footpath have been swept away.

Iron railway bridge collapsed into the River Greta

Damaged footpath from flooded river



Our approach to learning is to give people outdoor experiences  that help people develop confidence, resilience, personal and social skills and teamwork.  These are “real world” skills that can have lifelong positive impact on people

When you look around Keswick it is clear that these characteristics and behaviours were in evidence in the local community & helped people cope with the storms.  There were many examples of people working together to help flood victims and amazing resilience from teams such as the Mountain rescue who worked hard in difficult conditions helping people.

If you are planning an independently organised visit for your school, organisation or with friends and family, there are a couple of great sources of information about bridges & paths that have been affected & any on-going road closures.  There is however plenty of access to the fells and lakes and most businesses are up and running.

Footpath updates map

Road closure map

Since December the winter has followed a pattern of wind & rain interspersed with sunshine & snow – the pictures below give a good idea of the variation in the weather over the last few months.

Lodore water fall flowing fast after the storm